Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ryan Arnold and Jordan Scott

Went to the Robson Reading Series this evening to hear Ryan Arnold and Jordan Scott read. Both of these gentleman are Lower Mainland born-n-raised (Arnold from North Van and Scott from Coquitlam) and there was a really strong turnout for them, I'd say 40-odd at a rough guess, amply filling the UBC bookstore reading space.

Arnold read first, from his collection of short fiction The Coward Files. Arnold seemed a bit nervous, self-deprecating to a fault (no one should say at a reading that he hopes he's not wasting people's time), his preamble punctuated by ums and ahs, and in spite of keeping his eyes glued on the page, he stumbled a few times during his reading of two stories from the book--stories which called for a more expressive and dramatic performance than he gave them. There were a few laughs in the stories, but they could have been much funnier if delivered with a better sense of comic timing. The writing was also a bit stilted, I found; Arnold was at his funniest while talking, rather than in reading, probably because his writing sounded too much like writing. I bootlegged the reading, so you can judge for yourself.

After the break, Jordan Scott read from his new book Blert which, as he said, "explores the poetics of stuttering" (Scott has a speech impediment, so this is a personal question, not a mere ploy for novelty). After a brief introduction, he just read. No apologies, no palaver, just a strong, confident reading. The work is mainly what one would call "sound poetry," much more aural play than paraphrasable sense. Scott held the book in his left hand, while his right hand, holding a pen, moved like an orchestra conductor's when he got into full swing. There were movements in and out of cacophonous nonsense, and it was on several occasions disarmingly moving. I picked up the book after the reading, but after flipping thru it, decided not to buy it. Quite the opposite of Arnold's writing, Scott's prose and verse pieces were far flatter on the page than what I'd just heard. I wonder why a supposedly avant-garde press like Coach House doesn't publish work like this in CD format. It cries out for it; why are publishers so resistant to audio publishing? Fortunately, thanks to my handy little Panasonic machine, you can hear Scott's reading.

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